On most campuses summer is a quiet season, a time for reflection and catching one’s collective breath. This is much less true at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College. With over 400 students taking courses to either get ahead in their studies or get back on track, hosting the Summer Field Ecology Governor’s School, or high school teachers earning continuing education credits through our Summer Teacher Institute, summer at DSLCC is a busy period. In addition, we are gearing up for the fall start with new programs and new faculty and staff, which is always an exciting time.
My update is to provide you with an end-of-the-year summary from campus. It is hard to believe that I am concluding my second year since I assumed the presidency of DSLCC. These months have been a busy, exciting time for me and my family as we are now fully entrenched in Virginia and continue to appreciate the southern hospitality of everyone we meet.
A good part of my job is telling our story and I remain surprised that aspects of that story are not well known as they should be in our local community. Let me offer some examples:
- Many people do not realize that our Forest Management Technology program is the only two-year associate degree in Virginia that is accredited by the Society of American Foresters (SAF). In addition, Virginia Living’s State of Education recognized the Forestry program in their Top High Schools & Colleges under the Science, Math & Technology category.
- Registered Nursing student Nikki Wilson scored at the 99.86 percentile rank on the national HESI Assessment, the Top Nursing Score in the Country. This test is taken by more than 35,000 nursing students across the country from all types of RN programs. This is a reflection of the quality and rigor of both our Practical Nursing and Nursing (Associate Degree) programs.
- Jeanette S. Mann, Director of the DSLCC Emergency Medical Services Program, received the 2014 Western Virginia EMS Council Regional Award for Outstanding Pre-hospital Educator. In addition, the DSLCC Emergency Medical Services Advisory Committee has been selected to receive the 2014/2015 Virginia Career and Technical Education Creating Excellence Award for CTE Community College Advisory Committee.
- DSLCC has been recognized as “Business of the Year” by the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce & Tourism. Furthermore, DSLCC was a finalist for “Business of the Year” by the Lexington, Buena Vista & Rockbridge County Chamber of Commerce.
- Gloria Lawrence, Program Head of our Massage Therapy program, continues to add to her credentials, such as recognition for her efforts related to oncology massage, and her service on national boards to continually raise standards for massage therapy practitioners and training providers.
- The Aspen Institute named DSLCC one of the top 150 community colleges out of more than 1,100 two-year colleges nationwide focusing on areas of completion, equity, learning, and how well our graduates do in the labor market.
I could go on at length, talking about assistant professor Tina Hawley for her acceptance by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing to become a program evaluator or that Student Activities Coordinator Cynthia Boteler was selected for Distinguished Educator award from the Black Concern Commission, an honor which celebrates individuals who have made a profound difference in the lives of minority students through life-time service, leadership, teaching and overall dedication to the BCC mission, or yours truly appointed to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Commission on Communications and Marketing, or…well, you get the point.
DSLCC is a very good institution and that word is getting out. I am very proud of the progress over the past two years and in particular, this past academic year. As I have described in previous writings, my first year was to listen – and through a number of various community and college activities – I was able to help shape the short- and long-term goals. Let me walk you through key areas of the year just ended:
- The Local Board approved our new strategic plan – Pathways 2021 – for DSLCC in June. It will be our roadmap to guide allocation of resources and decision-making. The focus is on success-for students, employees, and the community.
- After going almost four years with declining enrollments, we had the largest increase in overall headcount enrollment from last spring of all 23 Virginia Community Colleges and the second highest increase in student FTE (full-time-equivalent equal is 15 credits) count. The overall headcount growth is 4.64 percent while the 3.81 percent increase in FTE places DSLCC just behind Southwest Virginia Community College. In addition, DSLCC has the largest growth in both FTE and Headcount in Dual Enrollment. The overall FTE growth is up 62.96 percent while the headcount growth is up 48.33 percent.
- Our numbers for this summer include a 26% increase in headcount and an increase of 18% in FTE. That once again ranks us at the top of the System. Early indicators such as course registrations and planned new dual enrollment courses suggest a similarly strong performance for the year ahead.
- Another indicator of improved enrollment is the work completed this past semester on student tracking sheets for academic programs. A team of individuals completed an audit of all academic programs and made the necessary adjustments of prerequisite courses and proper course sequencing. All of this will provide clearer a pathway to completion and retention. As an additional method to improve a student’s experience at DSLCC, we offered smaller class sizes for more personal attention as well as offered 24/7 Tutoring Services for students.
- I am pleased that we added new academic programs – Electrical & Instrumentation, Sustainable Agriculture, and Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVACR) – all programs addressing the needs of our service area. In addition, a new Licensed Practical Nursing to Registered Nursing (LPN-RN) transition course was developed and approved as well as a new pathway for Jackson River Governor’s School students interested in completing an associate degree while still in high school. Discussions continue with our community partners to look at more new courses and programs. As workforce needs change, we must adapt as well.
- Our partnerships with our high school divisions strengthened immensely this past year by offering greater options in dual enrollment, addressing college readiness, and by placing Career Coaches in three of our high schools. Coaches help students to transition to work, attend a college/university, enlist in U.S. military service, and pursue industry certification training, in addition to providing specialized expertise regarding community college opportunities. We are working on plans to bring the Career Coach program to all of our high schools in the very near future.
- I was pleased to open a Veteran’s Center on the Clifton Forge campus in November. We hope this Center will turn into a sort of community veterans space for our veterans to connect and engage in activities of fellowship and support with one another. In addition, DSLCC was named a 2015 Military Friendly School for the sixth consecutive year.
- We were also pleased to host Dr. Glenn Dubois, Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System as well as VA Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones to campus in May as a host of one of the Chancellor’s Town Hall Meetings throughout the Commonwealth.
These are just a few of the many accomplishments during the past year. Much of this success would not have been possible without an incredible team of people who have given fully and tirelessly to this College. It takes a lot of talented people to run a College like ours. So to our faculty and staff, I thank you all for being the soul of our institution. Thank you for your steadfast commitment to serving our students both inside and outside of the classroom.
Finally, in order for us to realize our goals we will need the help of the entire college and business community. Tell the DSLCC story. People involved in the community describe DSLCC as a “place on the move.” There’s much to be proud about and the story is getting better every day, yet too many people know too little of us. When you tell the DSLCC story, you help us recruit students, to place graduates with employers, and to convince donors of our worthiness.
Again, enjoy the summer and have a happy, healthy and safe July 4th holiday weekend. We want to see everyone on the Clifton Forge campus or the Rockbridge Regional Center this Fall!
John J. Rainone, Ed.D.